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Valery Rizzo is a professional photographer based in Park Slope, and a regular contributor to NonaBrooklyn. Under normal circumstances her work here is focused on capturing the beauty and bounty of Brooklyn’s food culture. She has spent time on assignment in Red Hook, documenting the neighborhood’s Added Value Farm, and the Sixpoint Brewery and the Red Hook Winery, all severely damaged by the storm, and in The Rockaways, photographing the booming beach culture and recent food renaissance at the Rockaway boardwalk, which is now…gone.

On Saturday, November 3rd, three days after Sandy, Valery returned to Red Hook and The Rockaways, both devastated by flooding from the storm’s surge. Here’s a look at what she found.


Red Hook

The cleanup continues at the Red Hook Winery, which suffered a total loss.

Brooklyn Crab serves free lunch to the community.

Rubble is piled high throughout the neighborhood, as residents and businesses pull out sodden furniture and belongings and pile it on the curbs. The basements and first floors of most buildings in the neighborhood were flooded.

The sheer force of the storm surge is apparent at the waterfront, where debris as large as shipping containers and telephone poles were picked up by the flood, floated, then dropped haphazardly along the shore as the water receded.

The contents of a flooded basement, hauled out, and piled at the curb.

Volunteers streamed into the neighborhood to assist with the cleanup on Saturday. Here, a couple of volunteers bearing new rakes to help out with the cleanup heads to the office of the Red Hook Initiative at 402 Van Brunt Street, where they've been tracking the needs of local residents and businesses and coordinating the volunteer effort.

The cleanup underway at the Civil War-era warehouse that is home to the Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition. Many studio and gallery spaces were destroyed.

Street art is a common sight in Red Hook, part of the flavor of the place.

The parking lot of Fairway, the enormous supermarket housed in another Civil War-era building on the water at the end of Van Brunt Street, is filled with debris like shopping carts and piles of shelving material destroyed in the flood. Fairway announced that it will be at least three months before they're able to reopen.

A message for the FDNY is left on the door of Red Hook's most iconic house.

Hot food being served by volunteers at the Red Hook Initiative. Separate locations were set up for volunteer coordination, donations of clothing and dry goods, and hot food. Food is at 767 Hicks Street. On Saturday, there was an incessant stream of people from other neighborhoods driving up to donate trays of hot food to feed the neighborhood. There were so many donations of food that eventually RHI began turning them away and redirecting them to other flooded neighborhoods.

Many residents lost all or much of their clothing in the flood - flood-soaked clothing generally has to be discarded, particularly when there is no power to run washing machines to clean or dry it. Visitation Church at 98 Richardson Street was designated for dropping off clothes, blankets, toiletries, diapers and all sorts of dry goods. People from unaffected neighborhoods drove up throughout the day with bags of clothing and goods to donate. Volunteers sorted and separated everything into categories, and put them out. Residents came and went, taking what they needed. The effort seemed to be very well organized.

A sign of hope on a neighborhood door - "Brighter days are ahead."

Red Hook's own Added Value Farm was completely submerged by the flood waters. Volunteers harvest everything left in the ground for compost.


The Rockaways

In much of Rockaway, the devastation was strikingly in its apparent violence. Here, a section of the Rockaway boardwalk was picked up by the surge, floated over a playground and across the Shore Front Parkway, and left largely intact against a man’s home. The sand had piled three feet high across of the road, and had been cleared by plows.

Another section of the boardwalk, ripped free of its pilings by the surge, was left behind on a side street a block from the beach, atop a Cooper Mini, with a street lamp eerily intact, when the waters receded.

Looking west along Shore Front Parkway, with the beach to the left out of the frame. Another section of the boardwalk, with railings still attached, was washed over the playground and across the wide road.

At Beach 88th Street, the boardwalk was lifted off its pilings and wrapped around a handball court, with street lamp and sign upright and intact.

The charred remains of a strip of twenty businesses along Rockaway Beach Boulevard near Beach 113th Street in Rockaway Park.

More boardwalk devastation. The violence of the destruction from the waves and the storm surge was startling. In some places it looked more like an earthquake had struck than a flood. Low-flying military helicopters were a constant presence.

While everything atop them was obliterated, the concrete pilings of the boardwalk remain, like a giant skeleton of what once was.

The remnants of a bicycle chained to a lamp post. In places, the surf and the surge created mountains of sand hundreds of yards from the normal water line. The sand filling many streets had to be plowed.


Photography by Valery Rizzo. All rights reserved.

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One Response to After the Flood: Images of Ruin and Resilience In Red Hook and The Rockaways

  1. Nicole Comesrunningbuck says:

    A telling set of images.The folks in the rest of the states should see what a mess the storm left. These images are better than any I’ve seen on news broadcasts. People across the nation need to be reminded that life is far from normal in the Greater New York area, especially along the shorelines.

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